A Conversation About Sales Call Ethics


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sales call ethics

Back when I knew everything there was to know in business (see: about two years in), I had some THOUGHTS.

Like: sending too many emails would eventually turn people off, and kill a business/offer.

(Blessedly, false.)

Like: sales pages being WAY too long.

(While this is largely contextual — but it still turns out out long form converts #ugh)

Like: not offering extended payment plans for everything was pure greed.

(The reality? Payment plans can only be spread as far out as the business can afford.)

However, after all these years, there’s still one “is it a good thing or a bad thing?” strategy that I go back and forth on:

Taking credit cards on sales calls.

Whip it out, or no?

Basically: asking people to whip out their (digital) cash to pay me on the spot, and secure their seat.

While I technically get it — it’s a solid way to secure commitment and make sure a prospect doesn’t go spinning off into the wind — it’s never something I’ve felt comfortable asking.

While I can ask for people’s money and make offers all day long in my promotions, emails, and social posts, when the “Go get your wallet now” rubber meets the road, I always feel a little too weird to make the request.

Waiting for those sweet, sweet dolla bills…

So I count on clients to pay after the proposal is in their hands, often a few days after the call.

And, blessedly, it hasn’t impacted my business too poorly.

This “should you take money on the call?” strategy pops up again and again in industry discourse — touted as one of the best closing tools out there, an unforgivable ethical no-no, and everything in between.

So a few months ago, curious to see if my crew felt the same way I did, I posed the question on IG:

“What do y’all think about taking money on sales calls?”

And friend… the replies just about bowled me over.

Agree to…agree? Wait what?

Some folks agreed with me!

“Not my thing.”

“Too high pressure.”

“Gross.”

But others?

“It’s all about context – but I love it.”

“When I’m ready to buy, I’m excited to get my card out.”

“I’ve actually been offended when someone DIDN’T ask. Like, do you not want to work with me???”

“It totally transformed my sales process in the best way.”

🤯🤯🤯

What a world, eh?

So I did what I always do when I find my beliefs getting challenged — I immediately texted Margo that we needed to do an episode on this.

Margo thinks she’s Switzerland

Hilariously?

Margo thought she didn’t have an opinion.

… Until she did. (Dun dun dunnnnn!)

So, as you probably suspect by now:

We’re baaaack!

#HAMYAW is BACK from our lil’ summer hiatus, and we’re jumping into the fray with a short n’ sweet episode premiering today: SALES CALLS ETHICS.

Click here to catch it now and check out:

  • The full story behind WHY I chose to ask that question on IG
  • Where I suspect this love/hate relationship with taking money on the phone really comes from
  • Where our separate approaches to sales calls originated, and how that impacts our POV’ss
  • What Margo feels is MORE difficult than asking for a credit card
  • IS MARGO A SECRET BOOMER? LET’S FIND OUT.

And don’t forget to bring your brain to the table in the comments:

Who’s side are YOU on?

Do YOU take money on sales calls?

Why or why not?

And what have you learned over years of running them for yourself and your clients?

Is there anything you thought you’d never do, but do now?

We wanna hear all about it — so get your booty over there and spill your guts.

Contextually yours,

H

Episode Transcript

What’s fine for one person is one person’s super unethical, how dare you.

So let’s do it.

(energetic music)

Welcome back, marketing nerds of the world.

It’s time for another episode of HAMYAW, and today, we want to talk about, I guess, ethics in sales conversations. Is that where we’re, is that where we’re going with this?

All right. Well, before we get into today’s topic, I want to tell y’all a really quick story where I was talking to a client of mine who is freaking fabulous. We’re definitely going to have her on the show at some point, the wonderful Grace Edison.

And she has a really phenomenal reputation in the sales space, she works for a lot of big names, has sold like multi-millions of products and all these things, and is also known for a really fantastic, ethical, compassionate, consent-centered approach to sales, which is incredibly rad.

We were chit-chatting one day, on one of our coaching calls and she told me, she’s like, “You know, there’s something interesting about your sales process.”

And I was like, “Tell me more about myself. What have you observed?”

And what was interesting to her is that, so when you, friend, apply for Power Position, this is what you’re going to experience. So the application comes in, I review, if you’re a good fit, we get on a sales call.

I get on the sales call. We talk, we talk about your goals, what you want in your business right now, I walk you through the Power Position process, take some notes. And then I basically compile my notes together for you along with a step-by-step of the Power Position process in an email. And you have basically a few days to get back to me with a yes or a no and your deposit.

Easy.

But what was interesting that Grace told me is she was like, “I was really surprised that you didn’t take payment on the call.”

And I was like, “What? People still do that? I thought that was a no-no.”

But she was like, “It’s really interesting because it’s actually tremendously risky to end a sales call and then let the person sort of do their own thinking and wait for them to come back basically.”

And she asked me, you know, “Do you have it happen where clients just ghost?”

And I told her, honestly, it’s actually extremely rare, but I think it’s because of just basically the way I show up and the fact that usually by the time people get to the Power Position application process…

Pre-sold.

Exactly. They’re pre-sold, they’ve taken in a lot of my content. They know who my clients are, they’ve talked to them. So it’s really kind of, I don’t want to say a formality, but it’s a meet and greet to make sure we’re an energetic fit. And then they can say yes or no.

It was really interesting because, you know, I think that sales calls in particular, there’s just so much that people either say like, I love this and do this. And this is empowering or no, this is super unethical. How very dare. And I think that the taking payment on sales calls, in particular, is a hot button issue for people.

And so I actually took the question to Instagram and the amount of responses I got were wild. And from people I did not expect, some people were like, “Absolutely not, gross! Why would I take payment on a sales call? That’s so high pressure.”

Other people were like, “Absolutely! If the client is game and I’m game, I find it super empowering. I love it. And then when we’re both kind of in it, fantastic!”

Other people were like, “It really depends on the context. Like if the client is raring to go and we already know we’re a fit, we can do it and it’s a great way to lock it in. Otherwise, we give them some space.”

And by the way, if, when you’re doing sales calls, if you want to give people some space to think, and they’re kind of going back and forth, need to talk to their partner, it can sometimes be really handy in a sales conversation to book a circle back call with them.

So like, “Okay, if you want to think this over, we can book another call, like 15 minutes, just to check in if you want to talk more, we may use it, we may not.”

Like that’s a good kind of in-between for that.

But I just thought it was so, so interesting. I think because sales calls are so close to the money, sales calls force you to talk yourself up. They’re literally sales calls that force you to sell.

And so I think there’s a lot of sensitivity, a lot of hesitation around that process and what is right and what is wrong. And the answers really kind of run the gambit, which is incredibly interesting to me.

But what I wanted to button this up with was also the idea that A, context is everything in general for sales calls, but B, we’re building a brand around this idea, but Grace made this really great point to me too. Just about sales calls in general, is that people will do anything to avoid having a sales conversation.

Like they will call it something else. They will dress it up and they will try to hire it out. They will try to do these big, long tail presentation things so they don’t have to get on a call. People will really strive to avoid it.

And I think that’s partially why, it’s because, and that’s the end to my very long story, but I think sales calls are so interesting and taking payment on the sales call, in particular, is a very hot button issue because it means that you are also doing something that is considered so gauche in polite company, which is asking for the money.

And it’s not something that I do or don’t do intentionally necessarily. It just doesn’t feel great for me. But it was fascinating to see some of the responses, and how it feels great for other people and how it can actually be a super empowering and awesome experience. 

I was genuinely surprised that you got the response you did, because I don’t have an ethical quandary about this.

Really?

Yeah, I was just,

Interesting, yeah.

I’ll tell you why, because I just don’t care. Apathy. I don’t know. No, that’s not it, let me be more specific. So my experience with sales calls, I don’t feel like a fan or anti, it’s just sometimes they’re necessary. So if they’re necessary, then you have them. I never understood the stance of being for or against.

Yeah.

I think that you just have to do, like, I don’t know how you build a business without sales.

Yeah, I agree, yeah.

So for me, it wasn’t a matter of like, “Do you like this?”

It was like, “I need clients. The clients want to talk to me. Oh, apparently that’s a sales call. Cool.”

Yep. That’s sort of I never really had an option either.

Like cool. More people on the phone, let’s go. And a lot of it was in person when I first started out. So here’s where I went to it.

In my head, I worked when I was running consultancy businesses, not solopreneurs. And so asking for money on the phone was never a thing because there was a whole payment processing issue. And so the thing that mattered to me was the contract. Like I needed the contract signed and you can’t ask for a contract to be signed in front of you. That’s a weird thing.

So I was just like, “Oh, this is a moot point. I don’t know why Hillary is asking me this question.” I didn’t think about it. And so I’m like really fascinated. 

It’s a hot button issue.

It’s a hot button issue.

But I think, I’m trying to think of the equivalent of like, I think talking about money is uncomfortable, but like the part that’s uncomfortable to me that I would never ask for someone’s credit card on the phone.

That’s what we’re talking about here. Yeah. Why is that? 

Because I feel uncomfortable giving people my credit card number. Like literally this is just a Millennial thing. I don’t like sending checks in the mail and I don’t like giving people my credit card number. And I don’t like writing down my social security card number. I feel safer if you send me a link. 

I feel like that’s not Millennial. I feel like that’s kind of Boomer, actually.

Really? I feel like Boomers love the freaking phone. They literally do everything on the phone.

Again, it never made sense. Like the clients I dealt with, they weren’t paying with credit cards. They were sending me money through like direct deposit or whatever their payment processing was, or they were generating checks for me.

I would get those checks in the mail with a 1099 or something. And then the other way that it happened is when I was doing like Arena stuff, where the only equivalent and my coaching practice. I almost always sent, you needed to sign up.

Yeah.

It had to have a link and you had to go through a formal process. So me having your credit card information didn’t actually help because I needed you to go through my payment processing thing. So it’s, I guess it’s just never come up for me as a thing I thought about. The closest equivalent I can get is that it’s uncomfortable to talk about how much something costs.

Yeah.

That I totally understand.

Or like, “Can I take your money?”

She raised it with me. And she was like, “That’s really fascinating.”

And for me, I was from the copywriting world and you don’t really, you can take money on the phone for copywriting, you know, but more often than not like you need somebody. And my coaching calls, the same practice where it’s like, “Sign the contract, pay the invoice, send in your onboarding form.” And then we’ll book a call.

And that feels fine to me and me personally, for my own buying habits. I need to go into my little hole. I need to think about things and I need to weigh and measure. And then I’ll give you an answer. And I trust my clients to do that too.

And my logic for not taking money on the phone was like one, I mean, people need time to go into their little consideration caves. And two, I would choke being like, “Get your credit card out, please,” you know. I charge 10K, 15K minimum a contract. Yeah.

And I just didn’t feel comfortable. I love selling. I do not feel comfortable making that particular move. I was like, is this ethical? I don’t know.

But do you feel uncomfortable telling them that’s the price?

No, not at all. Like not anymore. Not anymore.

See, I think that’s the harder part.

Yeah.

If they know that’s the price, then asking for the sale. Because I think the ghosting question she asked you is the important one. If they’re just ghosting on you, I think it’s the sales process thing, I don’t think it’s especially about the ask.

Definitely.

It’s the process because I’ve been on the receiving end of this. It feels over-eager when someone was like, “Okay, I need your money now” because then I’m like, “You don’t have a real business”. Like that is my initial, I’m like, you are desperate for money. And I feel like you’re actually going to go through me. I trust you less. So I think I do have a disposition around it, that is probably bad.

That’s so interesting because in my replies on Instagram, I had a few people be like,

“It’s weird to me if you don’t want to take my money.”

I’m like, “Do you not want to work with me?”

That’s fascinating.

I know, it’s so interesting. I was like, “Wow, there’s just so many different takes on this.”

For me, I was like, it feels weird. It feels pushy. I’m not about it. But Grace made a really great point. And this is like what we always (beep), I’m sure you’re so tired of us saying this on this show. But what it comes down to y’all, is context.

Grace made a really, really great point that she was like, “Look, I only do it if I know they’re in, if I know it’s just basically like a call to make sure we like each other and I

do it when they’re feeling ready to go.”

And I was like, “Okay, that’s really interesting to me.” ‘Cause I never even considered it because of my own buying habits, because of what, like my own hang-ups around like asking directly for the cash. Like I can name the price, that took some practice, but I can list the price really confidently. Now I can just say the number and shut the (beep) up, but this one extra step of taking the money.

It’s so interesting how varied the responses were and it’s really up to you. And if you have that long tail approach to getting someone on a sales call, you can probably ask for that cash if you know someone’s ready to go. But if someone’s like brand new, for example, they’ve never met you or they came in through a Facebook ad, it’s going to feel a little weird if you haven’t nurtured them at all.

It’s just such a great example of the things and the strategies that we throw away in business due to our own opinion, being seen as the only one, you know, and just seeing the variety of responses here was awesome because I was like, I love people and their brains.

This is so fascinating, because I didn’t even think I had an opinion on it. And here we are like 20 minutes into the conversation. I’m like, I do apparently, But also, couldn’t an alternative to solve this problem be like, “How do you want to pay?” Does that count as asking for payment?

I’m talking about like asking for payment on the call. Because everyone pays with a card. You know, like, no one’s paying you by check.

No, I’ve only ever been paid by check.

What?

That’s what I’m saying to you, I’ve never been paid by a card.

Yes you have, for the Arena. I’ve paid you with my card.

Yes. But that wasn’t through me. That was through the payment processing company. I couldn’t have put it in for you. Right. So like all the times that I did client work one-on-one was, I guess with coaching, I could have put it into PayPal.

Yeah. So hilariously, Maggie Frank-Hsu left me a voice note explaining how to take credit cards on the phone. Because I literally don’t know how to do it. I have, Maggie, I’m so sorry…I actually realized I have not listened to it yet. ‘Cause I should have an answer here.

Maggie, friend of the show, she was on a really awesome episode that we did a couple of years ago. But there’s a tool to do this where you can basically take their credit card directly and it will hook into your Dubsado, your CRM, and basically act as an initial invoice deposit.

That’s cool. I mean, that’s fine. Yeah. I don’t have anything against it. I was only ever paid by check.

Yeah. That’s so interesting. I feel so alien when I get paid by check. I got paid by check a few times from like bigger companies in my copywriting days. And it was like, we’ll send you your check by the end of the month. And I was like, what year is it?

Well, I think that’s what I’m saying. I would have an initial deposit to start. And then I’d be paid in intervals usually throughout the contract.

Yeah.

I would have been laughed at.

Yeah.

To take the money on the call. Yeah.

And that’s another contextual thing, you know, I think if it’s like service providers, you’re working one-on-one with people, you know, you’re providing certain things. It’s just, it’s very interesting to me. The hottest takes were that taking money on a call is high pressure and it’s unethical and gross.

There was a time where I agreed with all of those qualifications. But now that I look at it, you know, with everything in business, when I look at it in the context of a larger conversation, it’s always a matter of what makes the most sense for you or the client and for your strategy. There’s so much ethical sweat around sales calls. What’s the right thing to do? What’s the wrong thing to do? And I think it’s just less decided than we think folks.

Oh my God. Amen. Okay.

So on that note, context.

Yes.

Absolutely. Abso-freakin-lutely.

Okay, this is fascinating. We want to hear from y’all.

What have you done on sales calls? What do you think about asking for money on the call? How do you handle payment? Do you do sales calls? Do you do anything live? Like, tell us about your process.

How does this sit for you? Did you know it was an issue like Hillary, or did you not, like me? But did you discover you have strong feelings about this? We just have to know, what are your feelings?

So hit us up with the comments below. And we want to hear all about it.

I am Margo Aaron.

And I’m Hillary Weiss.

If you liked this episode, please like below and subscribe to our channel.

We will see you in two weeks.

Bye for now y’all. Go forth and sell, contextually.

(loud noise)

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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